The Ethics in Free Speech

This is moralism‘, we were told after having published an op-ed in one of the largest Norwegian newspapers, Aftenposten, in June 2013. This reaction made us even more curious about whether ethics is of any relevance to citizens’ freedom of expression. In our view, the critique is due to the confusion between what is normally understood as the ‘ethical’ and the ‘moral’. If so addressed, our claim is that the practice of the Norwegian free speech law should be supplemented by ethics, which we take to be rather the opposite of ‘moralism’. Nevertheless, in order to find out more about this problem, we will conduct our research by investigating the on-going public discourse on free speech in Norway after 22/7.

So far, our empirical findings point out three viewpoints in the debate. The ‘liberal’ view claims that the current free speech law is well-founded, while the ‘harm’ view holds that it should be regulated. Additionally, we have identified a third outlook, namely what can be described as a ‘middle way’ between the first two. Supporters of this view argue that free speech needs to be practiced in a more responsible manner than what is the case today.

In our research, we also wish to elaborate on this ‘responsibility argument’ by way of introducing a set of ethical guidelines with regard to the public use of free speech, which fully uphold a broad and liberal freedom of speech, yet specify reasonable ethical expectations. By doing so, we also attempt to shed more light not only on what ‘ethics’ is all about but also its relationship to law and values. With the help of the abovementioned distinction between ethical norms in the public on the one hand, and moral values in the private sphere on the other, we wish to argue that it is in fact a close relationship between ethics and law, a viewpoint which we take to avoid the accusation of ‘moralism’.

– Odin Lysaker and Henrik Syse

Diplomatic and Real Realities in the Israel-Palestine Conflict


Over the last few years I have encountered a number of professional Western diplomats who express their disbelief in any serious Israeli intention of achieving peace with the Palestinians. To be sure, these diplomats also fault the Palestinian leadership for their ability to bungle almost any initiative and opportunity they encounter. But unlike the refrain in much of Western media and public opinion, they do not view Israel and the Palestinians as two equal parties with equal blame for the stalled peace process. They recognize that the onus is on Israel to achieve progress, and that while most Israeli politicians and citizens live quite happily with the current situation, Palestinians suffer daily, both physically and mentally.

Read more in the blog post published by Jacob Høigilt (PRIO) at the New Middle East Blog October 25 2013

Reforming the Security Council: the Question that won’t go Away

Last week Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step of turning down the offer of a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, accusing the body of having failed in its “duties and … responsibilities in keeping world peace.” Saudi Arabia may have had the deadlock over Syria in mind, but it had the “work mechanisms and double standards” of the Security Council (UNSC) very firmly in its sights.

Read more in Simon Reid-Henry’s (PRIO) blog post at the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies.

Natural resources in the Arctic

The myth about the Arctic as the ultimate “treasure chest” of natural resources still has plenty of spin in the Russian political discourse, but reasonable assessments, like this article in Nezavisimaya gazeta, do appear. They are confirmed by the fact that Gazprom has in fact cut down the production on its newly-opened Bovanenkovskoe fields on… Read more »


The Barents Observer, which is a very good source on Arctic matters, has brought to my attention an article in Voenno-Promyshelly Kuryer on the problems and delays with the nuclear submarine Severodvinsk. The keel of this first sub in Yasen class was laid back in 1993, but the sea trials that started in 2011 have revealed… Read more »

Putin lashes against Sergei Medvedev

When I wrote the post about Zhirinivsky last week, I thought the issue could not get more bizarre – and was proven wrong. Yes, it can – and President Putin himself took care of that. He lashed against Sergei Medvedev with such passion that it is plain clear – the idea about putting environment first… Read more »

Golden Sunset

An anti-fascist protester lights a flare during clashes in the western Athens working class suburb of Keratsini on September 18, 2013. Photo Credit: LOUISA GOULIAMAKI


The recent crackdown on the Golden Dawn, the extreme right political party in Greece, met with a mixture of feelings on the part of the general Greek public: relief, exaltation, impatience, frustration, uncertainty, even fear. It was also surrounded with a number of questions. For some, just why? For most, why now? Why has it taken so long? What’s next? Will this backfire?Read More


A remarkably bizzare twist to the Arctic tale: My good friend Sergei Medvedev posted a comment to a blog post, in which he argued that Soviet and Russian “conquest” of the Arctic had inflicted so much damage to the environment that all economic activity in the High North should be banned and a UN monitoring… Read more »

A “clash of civilizations”

Russian media is full of accounts of the “show pre-trial” on the Greenpeace activists, like for instance this article in Novaya gazeta. is providing great newstream, particularly since Litvinov works for them; while Nezavisimaya gazeta tries to rationalize the demonstrative harshness. The point in Vedomosti that a “clash of civilizations” may be present in… Read more »

Brave Green-peaceniks

Gazprom was certainly better prepared this year to counter the Greenpeace action against the Prirazlomnaya platform in the Pechora sea – but this is the case of better preparedness making things much worse. The border guard ship (in the picture from the Greenpeace website) had to fire on the Arctic Sunrise in order to prevent… Read more »